India is among very few countries that release a biennial comprehensive forest survey. Released by the Forest Survey of India under the Ministry of Forest and Climate Change, Indian Forest Survey Report is an assessment of the forest and tree cover of India.
The first survey was published in the year 1987, this is the 17th publication of the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) in the year 2021. This survey is significant as it is used in the policy formulation for forest conservation, agroforestry and forest management.
Report classified forests into 3 categories which include highly dense forests-where canopy density is more than 70%, medium dense forests-here canopy density lies 40–70% and open forest-where the density remains between 10% and 40%. Patches, where canopy density is less than 10%, are categorized as scrubs. were also surveyed but were not classified as forests.
A maiden parameter:
It has for the first time assessed the forest cover in the Tiger Reserve, the Tiger Corridor and the Gir forest in which the Asiatic lion lives. In the last 10 years, there has been an increase in the forest cover in 20 tiger reserves, as well as a decrease in the forest cover area of 32 tiger reserves.
Key highlights of the report:
- The forest area, as well as tree cover, continues to increase in the country. Forest cover in India has increased by 1,540 sq km in the last two years. Whereas, the tree cover has increased by 721 sq km.
- India’s forest area is now 7,13,789 square kilometres, which is 21.71% of the country’s geographical area, which is up from 21.67% in the year 2019.
- Highest gain: The states showing the highest increase in forest cover are Telangana (3.07%), Andhra Pradesh (2.22%) and Odisha (1.04%).
- Maximum loss: The maximum reduction in forest cover has occurred in the five northeastern states – Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland.
- Forest area: Madhya Pradesh has the largest forest cover in the country, followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Maharashtra.
- Forest area percent: In terms of forest cover as a percentage of total geographical area, the top five states are Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur and Nagaland.
- Mangroves: An increment in the area of mangroves by 17 sq km has been observed. The total mangrove cover of India is now 4,992 sq km.
- Vulnerability: 35.46% of the forest area is prone to forest fires. Out of this 2.81% is very fire-prone, 7.85% is very high fire-prone and 11.51% is highly fire-prone. By 2030, 45-64% of forests in India will be affected by climate change and rising temperatures. Forests in all states (except Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland) will be highly sensitive climate hotspots. Ladakh (forest cover 0.1-0.2%) is likely to be affected the most.
- Carbon Stock: The total carbon stock in the country’s forests is estimated to be 7,204 million tonnes, an increase of 79.4 million tonnes from the year 2019.
- Bamboo Forest: The number of bamboos present in forests has increased from 13,882 million stems in the year 2019 to 53,336 million stems in the year 2021.
What is alarming in this report?
Although, the report testifies the general expansion of forest cover, medium dense forests, which are ‘natural forests’, have declined by 1,582 sq km. This decline reflects the increase in open forest areas to 2,621 sq km as well as the degradation of forests in the country. Moreover, the shrub area has increased by 5,320 sq km, which indicates the degradation of forests cover in the region.
Besides, an overall decline in forest cover has been observed in the North-East region by 1,020 sq km. The north-eastern states account for 7.98% of the total geographical area but 23.75% of the total forest area. The decline in the north-eastern states has been attributed to natural disasters in the region, precisely landslides and torrential rainfalls, as well as human activities such as shifting agriculture, developmental activities, grazing etc.